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Guest editorial: Why municipalities should support federal climate action – BlueRidgeNow.com

On April 22 over a billion people in 192 countries commemorated Earth Day. In towns and cities around the world people mobilized with creativity, innovation and bravery to meet our climate crisis and seize the enormous opportunities of a zero-carbon future.

Here in Hendersonville the City’s Environmental Sustainability Board recently sent a letter to the City Council requesting it approve a climate change resolution. The City Council had previously specified environmental sustainability as one of its core values. While this is a small step forward, it is not enough, and it is past time waiting for cities to do more.

The message of the most recent of the United Naiton’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report summarizing the latest scientific research to lessen climate change can be boiled down to one word: “urgency.” Written by 278 authors from 65 countries, it says global emissions must peak immediately. Unfortunately, most governments, including North Carolina and the United States, are not acting quickly enough to meet their goal of limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

What does this have to do with our city governments? While climate change is a global issue, its impact is felt locally. The U.S. has sustained 323 weather and climate disasters since 1980 where overall damages/costs reached or exceeded $1 billion each. In Hendersonville and Henderson County we have seen flooding events block our roads and highways as well as flood our greenways, increasing the city’s and county’s maintenance costs.

Despite these catastrophes, too many city governments have yet to pass resolutions calling for federal climate solutions, including Hendersonville. They should. Cities are population centers and hold a high concentration of voters concerned about climate issues. A city government can and should uplift those voters’ voices through resolutions that reflect their values and their priorities, especially when it affects their budgets and their ongoing need for disaster assistance. After all, while cities bear the brunt of climate costs, they are limited in what they can affect (only transportation and infrastructure). They will need federal policies that help minimize market-wide emissions and maximize municipal budgets by making clean energy solutions more affordable.

In North Carolina, seven cities – Apex, Asheville, Chapel Hill, Durham, Knightdale, Pittsboro and Sylva – have already endorsed proposed federal climate legislation supported by conservative and progressive members of Citizens’ Climate Lobby; the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (www.energyinnovationact.org). Conservatives like this policy because it’s market-based, doesn’t pick winners and losers, pays for itself, and doesn’t increase the federal deficit.

Progressives approve because it’s effective and doesn’t try to solve climate change on the backs of our most vulnerable families. The legislation will reduce America’s carbon pollution by 50% by 2030, putting us on track to reach net zero by 2050. The government makes fossil fuels more expensive, and businesses compete to provide clean energy solutions. The resulting innovation will reduce our pollution fast and efficiently, leading to plenty of reliable and affordable clean energy options for our modern lives.

The bill will improve health and save lives by reducing pollution Americans breathe, but most of all, it will put money back into each citizen’s pockets vs. government coffers because the revenue collected from the fee will be returned back to every American as a monthly carbon dividend check. Most low- and middle-income Americans will come out financially ahead or break even and are free to spend with no restrictions thereby funneling it back into the Economy – especially local ones like cities.

While Hendersonville could support a different climate solution (there is no silver bullet when it comes to climate change) the city should weigh in on the climate crisis. The cost of inaction is vastly greater than the cost of action. Federal lawmakers need the political space our local elected officials can provide. The urgency is real. The time to speak up is now.

Please lend your voice by submitting a comment (through the City Council website https://www.hendersonvillenc.gov/public-comment) or attend and make a comment at the next city council meeting on Thursday May 5 at 5:45pm at the City Operations Building.

Stuart Rundlett is a Hendersonville resident, a software engineer, and an active volunteer with Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Amos Dawson is a Henderson County resident, former President of Conserving Carolina, former Chair of the Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Section of the NC Bar Association and has practiced environmental law for 47 years.

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